The World Health Organization called on the international community to avoid imposing travel restrictions on southern African countries in response to the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. “Putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity,” Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa, said on Sunday. “COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.”
Moeti added that countries like South Africa and Botswana should be commended for their speed and transparency in identifying the new coronavirus variant. “WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19,” he wrote.
The U.S. still plans to ban travel from South Africa and seven other neighboring countries starting on Monday. WHO’s statement came the same day that South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa called for an end to the “completely unjustified” Omicron travel bans: “The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant” he declared.